UnitedHealthcare wasn't able to put a rider on the top step of the podium at the Tour of Utah this week, but Gavin Mannion's second-place finish to Rob Britton (Rally Cycling) and Travis McCabe's sprint jersey will give the team a boost of Confidence heading into the Colorado Classic, which starts Thursday.
Mannion took up the GC responsibilities after Daniel Jaramillo and Janier Acevedo fell ill, limiting their abilities in the hilly, hot, seven-day 2.HC race. The 25-year-old climbed into the runner-up position during the stage 3 time trial and then held on through four more stages.
"I think we had a really good week," Mannion said. "We came in here with a few guys targeting GC and Travis looking for stages. So to come away with a stage win, a podium overall and the sprinter's jersey, I think it was very successful. Everyone on the team is happy, and we all rode really well together, so I think it's good moving into Colorado."
McCabe took the team's win during stage 5 in Bountiful, holding off Nippo-Vini Fantini's Marco Canola and Axeon Hagens Berman's Logan Owen. He took the sprint jersey on the stage, and then held onto it through the queen stage on Saturday and again during Sunday's final hilly circuit in Salt Lake City, with it's punchy uphill finish.
McCabe jumped into a breakaway during the stage and won five points at the intermediate sprint, but when the breakaway failed he set his sights on the stage win. This time, however, Canola had his number an earned 15 points for the stage win. McCabe finished seventh on the stage and earned four points, enough to keep him in the jersey by three points over his Italian rival.
"That was so hard," McCabe told Cyclingnews in the finishing straight. "I took a chance going into that breakaway bridging across and spent a few too many bullets probably doing that, but it had the potential to stick, so I took a chance. I got those points.
"That wasn't a very good idea, but I felt good and it was a big break," McCabe said of his adventure off the front. "We had Jaramillo up there, and I thought there was a good chance it could stick. Obviously I was wrong, but when [BMC's Silvan] Dillier went, I just sat on his wheel. I was right on him when he jumped anyway, so I though I'd follow him across. He was a little frustrated I wouldn't pull through, but that's not my job anyway."
McCabe eventually faded back into the main bunch and tried his luck again in the finish, but Canola had a lot more left in the tank and took the win easily ahead of Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) and Mannion.
"The final time coming up, the Caja Rural rider went early and Canola had that extra snap that I didn't have," McCabe said. "I lost his wheel out of that corner, and he just continued to accelerate.
"I'm just so happy I was able to hold onto [the jersey]," he said. "I was hoping for a little more today, but the sprint jersey is pretty nice."
The performance this week in Utah bodes well for the team's next stop in Colorado, where McCabe says he will still have plenty of power to fight for more stage wins.
"Oh yeah, I'm super confident," McCabe said in the finishing straight. "I don't feel too bad. I could do another four days right now. Sure. Why not?
"We came here with GC ambitions," he said. "I think the sprinter's jersey is a bit of icing on the cake. Gavin held onto second, which is phenomenal. It was a successful tour for us, and I think everyone's pretty proud of how we all rode this week. We're going away with our heads held high."